Video tutorial: How to mix Blender, Zbrush and 3D Coat

How to combine Blender, Zbrush and 3D Coat and get the best of each one. In this making off we see how is the workflow between these three softwares.


In this video we will see tools such as Blender’s dynamic topology, Z Remesher, Projection, Zbrush normal map creation and PBR texturing with 3D Coat. At the end we set the lights, materials and rendering in Blender.

Video Transcription

Welcome to the first video tutorial of Medicci studio.

We always ask ourselves how to do things faster, better and in a more flexible way for the artist. In our case how to sculpt in a quick and comfortable way and then paint that model for a possible use in a video game engine, so it has to be optimized for real time.

Today we are going to show you the making off of the results of these tests and our conclusions so that it serves as a possible option for the community. It is not a step by step, it is more for showing the pipeline.

In this case we have used Blender, Zbrush and 3D coat to solve this problem. Let’s see then the making off of how to combine these programs. How to pass information from one program to another, starting by sculpting in Blender, optimizing it in Zbrush, texturing it in 3D coat and returning to Blender for rendering.

This image that you are seeing in the background is the final result. It’s a character we did to test how to combine these different tools and to look for a more efficient and flexible way to create 3d art for video games.

Let’s see the final blender file first.

This is the last file, it is a pretty low poly model with some lights, the camera and the setting of the material.

In the second place I am going to show you a diagram where we synthesize the steps to pass from one software to another.

In this process we first sculpted in Blender with the dynamic topology.

Then we exported in OBJ to Zbrush to optimize the model using the Z Remesher automatic retopologizer and the projection tool.

Once this is done, the low poly model of Zbrush is exported in OBJ and it is imported into 3D Coat to texture it.

Finally in Blender the same low poly model of Zbrush is imported, and a material is created using the textures exported from 3D coat. We add the lights and the camera.

We begin by seeing the process in Blender. The important thing to keep in mind here is to use the dynamic topology to add and remove volume quickly without worrying about polygon stretching. Also check that the symmetry option has to be active.

The brushes that we have used the most are the clay strips and the smooth.

Do not worry much if the model does not look like we want at the beginning, it is common to look ugly. We used the references in the loomis anatomy book to correct the proportions of the model. You must have patience and move forward little by little.

At the time of making the ear we downloaded a 3d model from blendswap and made a boolean union. Then we softened the union.

Now let’s see how is the final sculpted model that we use for the render.

Once finished the sculpted we have exported it in OBJ, activating the option to export only the selection.

We do this to be able to import the model in Zbrush and perform an Auto retopo.

Once inside Zbrush, we import it, we duplicate the sub tool, then we go to the geometry section, Z Remesher, we choose the amount of vertices we want. In our case we have set it to 30,000.

Now we will have the original model of BLender with many details on one side and the model with the auto retopo on the other.

What we want to do now is to rescue the details of the high poly model of Blender and transfer them to the low poly model. But first we are going to do the Unwrapping, the unwrapping is necessary so that at the end of the process we can export a texture called normal map that will help simulate that the model with auto retopo has more details of what it really has in the geometry itself. In our case we use the UV Master of Zbrush, indicating through the painting where we want and where not to make the cuts in the geometry and thus be able to perform the unwrap.

Now if once this is done we can pass the detail of the high poly model to the low poly model.

For this we must subdivide the low poly model several times with the subdivide tool and then project the details of the Blender model to the model with auto retopo. This is done by making the two models visible and activating the project all button.

Once this is done we create the normal map, a rgb image with the information of the details of the high poly model.

We go to normal map section and press create normal map. Then we export it.

Before finishing working with Zbrush what we want is to export the Low poly model, since it is the one we are going to use to render. Because it is lighter, it has all four-sided polygons, it is more optimized for real time and it is also prepared with the unwrapping and the amount of polygons to be able to paint it in 3D Coat.

To export it, we click on export.

Now we have an optimized model, with the UV and a normal map.

Now to be able to paint the model we will use 3D Coat which allows us to paint several channels at once. color, roughness, metalness. Here we must import the low poly model and paint it. To do that we choose the option “paint uv mapped mesh”.

Once the 3D model is imported, we import the normal map. The normal map must be mirrored vertically because Zbrush handles it differently so change that and save it as PNG format. 3D Coat does not import files in PSD.

For painting the skin we have created several layers. A base layer for the skin, another for the muscles, another for the dirt spots and others to give variety to the skin. The skin is not all the same color, it should has more greenish, reddish or yellowish colors. These changes are what make it look more realistic.

It is very important to set the roughness of the brush well so that the skin has more roughness and the blood less. This will create the feeling that the blood is wet.

Once finished painting, we must export the textures by clicking on “Export Object and textures”. We choose the Blender Cycles preset in the options and eliminate the emission and reflection texture.

After exporting the textures, we open Blender again and import the low poly model that we exported from Zbrush.

We set the renderer to Cycles. We create a new material with the shader principled BSDF. We load the diffuse texture in the base color channel, the roughness texture in the roughness slot, as non color data. Finally we connect the normal map through a normal vector map to the normal slot.

Then we set the subsurface scattering to 0.1 to simulate the behavior of the skin. We also add two area lights on each side of the character and the camera in front.

We load an HDRI into the environment so that it illuminates and serves as the background of the image.

We set the Depth of field of the camera and load an empty to serve as a focus point.

In our case the skin was too reflective so we have added a RGB node curves to adjust the values.

This was the experience we had combining all these softwares, we hope you find it useful, if you liked, please share it and we’ll see you in the next video.


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